Tom Murphy
Mary Jo and Tom Murphy

My name is Tom Murphy, and my journey with lung cancer began in September 2010. I had participated in and was a beneficiary of the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program (I-ELCAP) Early Detection Lung Cancer Screening program, which I had joined in 2005.

I grew up in the Philadelphia area and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, serving on active duty from January 1970 to December 1976. After boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina and infantry training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, I was transferred to a communications school at Pensacola, Florida, and after 5 months of training, moved on to my next duty station, Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), where I spent 1971. After GTMO, I was transferred to the 1st Marine Air Wing (MAW) in Iwakuni, Japan, where I spent most of 1972. I served in the Republic of South Viet Nam and Thailand as a courier after the 1st MAW deployed several Marine Air Groups to the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) as a result of the 1972 North Vietnamese Easter Offensive. I was then transferred to Fort Meade in February 1973, which is where I met my wife, Mary Jo.

My father died as a result of lung cancer in 1997. He was a U.S. Navy WWII Pacific theater Veteran, and he had smoked. I had also been a smoker, having quit in May 2000. My family and I live in central Maryland, which is an area known for higher levels of radon.

Considering all this, I had the following potential lung cancer exposures: genetics (my dad passed from lung cancer), radon exposure, military environmental exposures, and I was a former smoker.

In early 2005, I heard an ad on the car radio for an organization seeking former smokers to participate in an early detection lung cancer screening program. It took several airings on the radio for me to get the contact information to inquire about registering. I was accepted into the I-ELCAP test group at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, and had annual scans from 2005 to 2009 without problems. The scan in January 2010, however, led me to the diagnosis in September 2010.

A PET scan in the spring of 2010 reflected no take-up, but the staff at I-ELCAP and St. Agnes were insistent that I do a follow-up scan in August, and that scan showed increased growth in a suspicious ground-glass nodule. That led me to Dr. Stephen Yang at Johns Hopkins, who performed a right upper lobectomy on September 21, 2010. The pathology report confirmed it was a stage 1A, bronchioalveolar carcinoma. The surgery was followed by a 6-month epigenetic clinical trial of two chemotherapy agents at Johns Hopkins with Dr. Charles Rudin. Things were good until November 2014, when other ground-glass nodules in both lungs increased in size, and I underwent stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) to each lung in November and December of 2014. Dr. Russell Hales became my doctor at this point. Things stabilized again until August 2017, at which time one nodule in each lung had increased in size, and I again underwent SBRT to each lung in September and October 2017. Every 3 to 4 months, I undergo a computed tomography (CT) scan, which tracks the growth of the multiple ground-glass nodules in each lung.

In addition to benefitting from the science behind the CT scans and lung cancer screening trial, I have benefitted significantly from the development of technologies and treatments. The SBRT treatments were not available in 2010. The high-resolution CT scans produce higher accuracy images, allowing more informed and caring disease management and treatments by the medical professionals – and also by those who identify, design, brainstorm, and look at the diseases from different perspectives.

Back in 2010, the future looked very uncertain, and as I share these thoughts I have just become an 8-year survivor. This journey has been less difficult for me, as I have been accompanied by my wife Mary Jo, our son Steve, his wife Dawn, our daughter Chrissy, her husband Chris, and our family and friends. Mary Jo has been my co-pilot through each scan and treatment, each up and down. Faith and prayers have played a central role as well.

During these 8 years, we have welcomed our two grandchildren into our world. We have had the privilege of providing some day care for Carlie and Drew and have enjoyed watching their development. It is a lot of fun, and I am very grateful I have had that opportunity.

I have been involved with the Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) for nearly 8 years. The LCA introduced me to the DoD LCRP last year, my first year as a consumer reviewer. My experience was very positive and informative, as I had little idea about the program, or more importantly, that so much was being done in the research areas. I was very impressed with the quality of the requests and the capabilities of the researchers, reviewers, and panel members. I have learned much, which will allow me to be more productive this year. My only regret last year was that I was a bit fatigued, as I had recently completed an SBRT.

I mentioned to Dr. Hales last year that I had participated in the review, and he thanked me and advised that it was very important to get the patients’ perspectives. He also told me how hard the researchers work to get the idea presented. This further affirmed for me the importance of the effort.

I am mostly retired, having spent a career in the telecom/internet/services industries, although I do respond to some friends who will sometimes dust me off for a part-time management consulting requirement. I enjoy staying fresh mentally with the new technologies and opportunities. I do some volunteer work with Veterans’ organizations causes, or Veterans directly.

As far as what we do personally, Mary Jo and I watch Drew several days per week. Carlie has moved onto kindergarten. We enjoy travelling to the beaches and other locales. We are enjoying retirement and our time together, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do this.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be here today and hope to assist others as we can.

Last updated Thursday, May 26, 2022